General Comments

Perspectives on Teaching Geography Through ICT

Comment from Received
Michael Solem 13 March 99
Ifan Shepherd 15 March 99
Chris O'Hagan 16 March 99

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Michael Solem, University of Colorado, USA

I am quite interested in this topic, in fact my dissertation research addresses many of the issues identified by the authors. This paper is timely and important, and I can only hope that the greater geography community will pay attention and support research on this problem.

I suggest that we need to consider faculty perspectives on ICT as well as the implications ICT holds for student learning of geography. My research seeks to determine what factors motivate geographers to adopt instructional technology in different institutional contexts. I will report on this research at the IGU conference in San Marcos in May. For now, I argue that it is important to identify the barriers to adoption of Internet-based teaching so that strategies can be developed to facilitate greater (and, it is hoped, better) use of instructional technology.

I have references that shed some light on the questions posed at the conclusion of the paper, drawing from my review of the literature for my dissertation.

  1. Does technology make a difference in student learning?

  2. Can we isolate the effects of technology?

    Agarwal, R., and Day, E. 1998. The Impact of the Internet on Economic Education. Journal of Economic Education, Spring 1998. pp. 99-110.

    Newnham, R., Mather, A., Grattan, J., Holmes, A., and Gardner, A. 1998. An Evaluation of the Use of Internet Sources as a Basis for Geography Coursework. Journal of Geography in Higher Education. 22(1): pp. 19-34.

  3. Can basic research in education guide good practice in ICT?

    Keep your eye out for an upcoming special issue of the Journal of Geography and a piece by Hill and Solem that addresses this question.

  4. How do students actually use ICT media in their learning?

    Ward, M. and Newlands, D. 1998. Use of the Web in Undergraduate Teaching. Computers and Education (31): 171-184.

Michael Solem
University of Colorado, USA
E-mail Michael.Solem@Colorado.EDU



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Ifan Shepherd, Middlesex University, UK

I probably have little to say on section 1 (Geography Teaching and IT) that I haven't already covered in the recent FDTL Guide on ICT in geography, so I'll move on to the other parts of this paper.

My main interest lies in the authors' decision to split their discussion on collaboration into two parts: section 2, which deals with inter-institutional collaboration, and section 3, which deals with international collaboration. This is extremely thought-provoking. Clearly, there is much commonality between the headings and content of the two sections, and this stimulates the obvious question: can/should these two levels be distinguished in practice?

I think that already the distinction is becoming weak - something that the authors themselves appear to realise in passing in section 3. Already, there are many HEIs which have to grapple with the issue of multiple first languages and cultures on their campuses, and there are other ways in which differences between the internal and the international are being eroded. Here's a hypothesis for discussion: this distinction is likely to disappear rapidly in the next few years, particularly as an increasing number of HEIs offer their curricula in the global marketplace.

Perhaps we should focus on the key collaboration issues (e.g. development, evaluation, implementation and delivery), and see what clusters of factors affect these at various levels along a continuum: department, institution, country, economic/cultural block, world.

Ifan Shepherd
Marketing Academic Group, Middlesex University Business School, Middlesex University, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, NW4 4BT, UK
Tel +44 (0)181 362 5819; Fax +44 (0)181 202 1539; E-mail



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[Note: This message was recently sent to several mailbases in answer to a previous query, but its contents are relevant to the discussion of this paper. Chris has kindly agreed for the message to be added to this Internet discussion.]

Chris O'Hagan, University of Derby, UK

Noel Entwisle produced a literature survey on teaching and learning research, which was published by UCoSDA and although perhaps a bit dated now (93) is still available I believe. You may find useful references to the kinds of thing you are thinking of doing.

Another useful digest has just been published. "The no significant difference phenomenon... a comparative research annotated bibliography on technology for distance education." compiled by Thomas Russell and published by North Carolina State University. ISBN 0966893603. As Russell points out in his introduction the fact so many studies find no difference in student performance when comparing traditional methods to technology-supported methods is actually a good response for new methods. As he says, "This fact opens doors to employing technologies to increase efficiencies, circumvent obstacles, bridge distances and the like. It also allows us to employ cheaper and simpler technologies with assurance that outcomes will be comparable with the more expensive and sophisticated ones as well as conventional teaching/learning methods" A WWW site has been established at for readers to submit no significant difference and significant difference citations for permanent posting.

Chris O'Hagan
Dean of Learning Development, Centre for Educational Development and Media, University of Derby, Kedleston Road, DERBY, DE22 1GB, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1332 622262 (direct); Fax: +44 (0)1332 622772; Email:; WWW:

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